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New year, new predictions. The top 4 social media predictions for 2014

It’s the new year and a fresh start for everyone. These nba teams are starting to win so this year might be a great year.  In the social, digital and technology space, this year is predicted to be a banner year for new technologies but also a step further for marketers when it come to taking advantage of new social and digital platforms. And there also the increase in mobile ad spending. The outlook for all of them is leading to bold predictions from various agencies, experts and brands. I have a few of my own.  Below are my predictions for 2014.

Increase in social media ad spend 

In 2014, expect social ads to explode and get a lot more attention than they currently do. These ads are proving to be a lot more effective than some traditional forms of advertising, like banner ads. No one cares about banner ads, (clicked on 0.2 percent of the time), however social ads like Promoted Tweets show engagement of one to three percent— up to 15 times better.  Each one of these perform much higher than traditional forms of advertisements.

Video sharing will explode the way images did in 2013

Most millennials, the highly sought after target for many brands, grew up watching online video. It’s what they’re used to consuming and now are creating it more than ever.  Short form video platforms like Vine and Instagram have made it easier to create, edit and share video in real-time. And that’s not even including YouTube, the old guard when it comes to sharing video on social.

The signs for an explosion in video sharing in 2014 are all there.  Instagram introduced video a few months after Vine launched, Snapchat was offered $3 and $4 billion for their ephemeral image and video platform, (money they quickly turned down) which boasts users mostly between the ages of 13 and 25 and Facebook is launched video ads within the News Feed.  In 2014, videos will become the new image.

Google+ will grow in size and importance

Google+ has always taken a back seat for brands looking to connect with their users.  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram always got the bulk of the conversation.  However, that’s about to change in 2014. Google+ has slowly but surely grown the number of active users to over 540 million in 2013 and in 2014, is poised to create more importance in the social space especially when it comes to search.

Google+ is baked into a range of Google products, including important consumer facing products such as Search, YouTube and Google Maps. While brands continue to carve out a presence on Google+, many have noticed higher search rankings as a result of their presence on the platform.

The importance of community building and brand ambassadors will increase

In 2014, brands will be spending much more time building communities with fans who are willing to help them spread the word about their service or product because they love it so much. Brands will have to find ways to build more word-of-mouth traffic because consumers trust other consumers. In a recent Nielson Global Survey, 84% of respondents said they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and families over anything else.

What are some other predictions you’d like to include in the list above?

 

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Why can’t there be a social network that pays users for their data? Google+ I’m looking at you!

This is going to be a little out there but I seriously think there’s got to be a way to make a sustainable social media business by paying people for their data.  I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about this the past few days but a company like Google can easily turn Google+ into a service where they pay users to continuously be active and engaging on the platform.  

The way I see it,  Facebook and other social media networks won’t have the long-term sustainability like Google search or Twitter can, so why not make money off of highly engaging audiences by giving them a piece of the pie. I view Google+ in the same way Google views the internet – They help host and crawl the web for highly engaging blogs and then sell AdWords or ads against the content.  Bloggers get paid based how many users actively come to their page, read the content and engage.  Some bloggers are even working with brands to be loyal influencers, making additional money on the side.   Why can’t Google+ be the social network to facilitate the same kind of environment, where users get paid to create compelling content, while still making money of their social following by creating partnerships with brands.   Google can then limit the reach of new fans by getting brands to pay to reach the full potential of their followers, similar to the way Facebook does. The big difference is that users of the channel get a cut of the ad dollars, unlike users of Facebook who get nothing.  I think it’ll go a long towards creating a compelling social network, where users will actively engage, fans will come to read awesome content – otherwise no one will come back, and Google can still make a ton of money. They may not make the billions up on billions they make of search but they can be the “good guys” here, by paying users for selling their data to brands for targeted ads.

I think there’s an amazing opportunity to make just a little less money while still giving users the opportunity to create marketplaces within a social network. Think about the amount of money active Google+ users can make, the same way many Facebook Pages make money from brands – we know this is actively happening. It’s the power of the internet.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t have to be Google+ but I think they are poised to do something amazing here, while taking Google+ up a notch in a way that leaves Facebook scrambling to react.

 

 

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When will brands learn to engage and not put all your social eggs in one basket

I keep getting this strange feeling that in the next few years, Facebook as a platform will slowly start to decline, especially the relevancy of Facebook Pages.

The more I hear brands attach the word Facebook to social as if that’s the only platform that can do social well, I can’t help but wonder how much they have yet to learn. Just because Facebook is the default platform for brand engagement right now doesn’t mean it’s the only platform to invest marketing dollars in. Whenever I’m in a meeting, I want to scream and tell them the many other options available to them with differentiating benefits. Facebook is also misused so it’s not like these brands are doing it justice.

When a brand throws all of it’s social marketing dollars into Facebook and then follows up with marketing messages instead of actual engaging dialogues with consumers, the tactic behind using the platform loses its value. For those who still don’t get it, social media is part of a marketing tactic, not a channel to spew marketing messages to people. It needs to be weaved into the conversation in a two-way dialogue.

I wish more brands would be open-minded and invest in Twitter, Google+ or vine and Instagram for brands with creative products. Isn’t it better to be the first brand in your category to own that platform and set your own best practice guidelines instead of being another brand on Facebook that is trying to one-up their competition? Of course, none of it will matter, as brands will continue to take the safe route until that platform goes down with their marketing budgets.

All of this is easy for me to say as someone who’s invested in the future of social media but ultimately brands should be listening to their agency partners more often. They hired them for a reason, it’s about time they started listening to their expertise.

It could also be a fault of the agency partners who feel like they need the business so bad they’re not wiling to let the trouble client go or propose changes that may upset the current balance of things. Figuring out problems and providing solutions for the clients are what makes great agencies, not a rotating list of clients every year.

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Chromecast has so much potential but comes with a few concerns

Competition is now heating up in the TV space.  No, I’m not talking about Facebook’s admission that they too can compete in the TV conversation tracking or Apple’s rumored TV. Instead it’s a little device that Google launched yesterday called Chromecast.

Basically, it’s a tiny thumbnail drive-sized device that hooks up to a HDMI port of a HDTV and can wirelessly stream content from a Chrome browser enabled device or built-in apps such as Netflix and YouTube (others to come soon via the Cast SDK).  It costs $35 and comes with 3 months of Netflix for existing and new customers.  I bought one for myself as soon as I could (Best Buy has them in stock. Amazon is sold out). It’s a great deal no matter what. I already have Netflix but with 3 free months, the Chromecast comes out to 11 bucks. Can’t beat that.  While everyone is clamoring for the new device and talking about its potential, I’m afraid of a few things.

  1. The SDK will let content providers like Hulu and HBO Go block access via Chromecast from the Chrome browser without partnerships or paying for content. In Hulu’s case, this is something that will become an issue once they pick it up. Unlike AppleTV, which displays the entire desktop, Hulu might be able to tell if Chromecast is streaming to the TV. I may be wrong but it may be a long-term issue.  I can see other companies with app specific content doing the same.
  2. Apple will update AppleTV or come out with something better.  Apple won’t sit idly while Google gets the limelight with Chromecast. I bet Apple has something new in store in September or very soon.  At the least, they can open up Airplay on other platforms
  3. Google has a terrible track record of hardware for TV/Music.  The two examples that come to mind are Nexus Q, which Google killed even before releasing it to the public and Google TV. Google TV never caught on the way they had hoped, especially with content partners not jumping on board.

I love the innovation behind Chromecast. It will further push Google products in front of more consumers. And I love their platform agnostic approach to Chromecast. As much as I enjoy Apple products, only having access to specific features like Airplay on Apple devices leave out other consumers who cannot afford or don’t want to purchase Apple products. I hope this is the first of many similar devices to disrupt TV and help with cord cutting.

Do you like the idea of Chromecast? Were you able to get one?  

 

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Lack Of Social Media & Marketing In Foreign Countries

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As a marketer, any time I travel I make sure to check what the marketing landscape looks like for products and brands within that country.   I just came back from Greece for my honeymoon and compared to my Paris trip last year, Greece doesn’t do nearly a great job of marketing products – nor does it have a great marketing presence.  There are a number of reasons why, but here’s what I think.

With countries like Greece, well known for their beauty but not so much their consumerism, it all comes down to what people already know.  As I walked the streets, I saw the same products on multiple islands without any competitor brands.  This reminded me of the advertising landscape in Bangladesh.  Most of the consumers in Bangladesh use things they already know, usually passed down from family members via word of mouth and so competitors have a tough time breaking in. 

In Greece, the most popular soft drinks are Sprite, Coca Cola and Coca Cola Light (there’s no such thing as Diet Coke and are all Coke products).  There wasn’t a competitor in sight. The same goes for travel reviews. There’s no such thing as Yelp and everyone uses TripAdvisor as the only form of validation.  Hotels and shops even display TripAdvisor certificates on their windows.

There also isn’t a big social media presence, which I think is a huge gap for brands, especially the boutique hotels in the Greek islands.  In our stay in Paros, the hotel (Akrotiri Hotel) was absolutely amazing, with a gorgeous view, close to the beaches with many restaurant options nearby.  If that hotel utilized Facebook or Twitter to reach out to potential customers who have questions or share images of the beaches, it would make it easier to attract customers and also differentiate themselves from their competitors, who aren’t doing anything.  They have a book with testimonials but they need to make it digital or at least type it out themselves for others to read and share via social channels. Think about the SEO value if they could share those reviews via a Google+ page! 

Some of the bigger chain hotels like Westin and Marriott have a presence but that’s only in Athens, not the Greek Islands.

I had a great time in Greece but during my entire trip, I couldn’t help but wonder how much hotels, shops and brands are leaving on the table by not incorporating social media or working with competition to create better business opportunities.

Do you check the way brands market in foreign countries when traveling? What’s the most prominent brand you’ve seen so far?

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Google Glasses: How Tech Companies Should Be Working Together For A Better Future

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 Coverage on Google Glasses has been increasing steadily over the past few weeks.  As more app developers are allowed to incorporate the Glasses technology, there’s greater coverage on the capabilities.   What stood out most about the latest coverage is how tech competitors such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are all working together to create applications for Glasses.

In a recent interview with Techcrunch, former Googler, now a mobile product manager for special projects Erick Tseng discussed how they closely worked with Google on developing the Facebook app for Google Glasses, even though they’re competitors. 

More broadly, it’s often forgotten that we have a great relationship. Facebook is one of most popular Android apps today. We already work very closely on that experience as well. And then Home is the latest manifestation of that relationship.

We could take that any way we’d like but I think they genuinely do like working together and in many cases, would like to advance together even as competitors. If Apple and Microsoft could do it for decades, I’m sure Google and Facebook can do the same.  I think this is the best way to move technology forward. In an age when every platform is looking to monetize their users and cutting off API access at the cost of consumer experience, it’s nice to see two giants willing to work together to create an awesome piece of technology, something that could change the way we consume content but also verticals such as medicine.  As a tech and social media enthusiast, I’m actually really proud to see this happen within the space. Of course, this could all change next week, as user data becomes more important for advertising purposes.  But I’d like to think the brains behind both companies would like to do some good with innovative technology and not always focus on the bottom line. 

All this comes on the heels of this morning’s reports that Twitter, CNN, Elle and Tumblr will all be included in Google Glasses.  Who knows it Google Glasses will ever turn into a popular consumer product but it’s definitely getting its share of coverage and supporters.  I can’t wait till I get my hands on a pair next year.

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Turning Views Into Sales: YouTube Channel Gadget

Google I/O 2013 was a huge for Google products but also a warning to competitors like Apple and Facebook.  However, something important that didn’t get as much coverage was Google’s announcement yesterday that some CPG brands can now sell their products via a YouTube channel gadget on YouTube.  YouTube is looking to connect users who view product related videos or how to’s and get them to buy those products. It’s very similar to the way hair salons and studios make extra money by suggesting customers purchase products directly from them.

Google uses Unilever and TRESemme as the example but this is something huge for all brands in general. If you have something to sell then why not look into placing it on your YouTube channel. I can even see financial services brands placing online applications via the Channel gadget.  And what’s to stop Wal-Mart from selling products from a new campaign right on YouTube or Fandango selling tickets right from their YouTube channel?

This is an excellent way to get consumers to make a quicker purchase decision, especially after they’ve just viewed a video showcasing the product and its advantages.   There’s even an opportunity for blogger outreach like strategies to get popular bloggers to talk about your product and have it placed within the channel gadget for purchase, making the process seamless.

I checked out the TRESemme example and it wasn’t as fluid as I thought it would be but it’s definitely a good start. I think there’s still some refinement that needs to be done on Google’s part but for now, it’s an excellent concept that brands should be looking into, especially if you have a popular YouTube channel.

Would you ever buy something via a YouTube channel? Have you ever bought anything from a social media platform?

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